We introduce the concept of an abstract evolution system, which provides a convenient framework for studying generic mathematical structures and their properties. Roughly speaking, an evolution system is a category endowed with a selected class of morphisms called transitions, and with a selected object called the origin. We illustrate it by a series of examples from several areas of mathematics. Evolution systems can also be viewed as a generalization of abstract rewriting systems, where the partially ordered set is replaced by a category. In our setting, the process of rewriting plays a nontrivial role, whereas in rewriting systems only the result of a reduction/rewriting is relevant. An analogue of Newman's Lemma holds in our setting, although the proof is a bit more delicate, nevertheless, still based on Huet's idea using well founded induction.